JKUAT’s dream to spearhead dry-land agriculture research in Kenya has received new gravitas following the installation of a modern weather station at the varsity’s main campus in Juja. The station, an offshoot of the collaboration between JKUAT and the Chinese Lanzhou University, will help in collection and analysis of targeted climatic data aspects including: humidity, heat, solar radiation, evaporation, besides wind speed and patterns within the host climate.
The initiative will also pilot integrated rain-fed agricultural practices like micro-field rain harvesting and elite crop germplasm, concepts that were introduced to Kenya by the Chinese partners. Another aspect to be piloted in the project is the efficacy of plastic mulching; use of plastic films to conserve moisture and minimize evaporation
According to Prof. Aggrey Bernard Nyende, the collaboration coordinator, data insights form the project could help transform how agriculture is practiced in the arid and semi arid parts of the country.
Dr. Feng Zhang, one of the Chinese researchers involved in the project, notes that integrated rain-fed agriculture is a mature technology in China. He reckons that large tracts of arid lands in China have been transformed into productive soils, feeding thousands of people in the Asian economic giant.
Preliminary studies undertaken in Juja have shown that plastic mulching leads to better yields besides cutting the cost of production especially on weed control.
The project is primed to transform the way agriculture is practiced in parts of Kenya that experience little rainfall by incorporating among others water harvesting techniques; mapping crops to favorable climatic conditions and soil types.
Food production in Kenya continues to shrink in the face of global warming; which has been blamed for erratic rainfall patterns and quantities. However, with adoption of progressive innovations and technologies more acreage could be put under food production.
Dr. Feng was accompanied by Prof. Guo Sun and Dr. Zhang Lixun, all from the Lanzhou University, school of Life Sciences.